First time to Tulum, March 8-14, for 25th Anniversary:
Day 1: Had reserved private USA Transfers since it was our first time to Tulum. Great decision, easy to find, friendly driver. Worth every cent. Check in at Nueva Vida de Ramiro about 11:30 am. Our room wasn't ready, so we had lunch across the street at Casa Banana (exc. guacamole, but the shrimp kebob was bland), then hung out on a beach bed by the sea. Fell asleep. Woke up, room ready, balcony overlooked palm trees and ocean. Felt stress draining... Taxi to town, walked around, ended up at El Camello and it was packed with locals - no tourists. Hostess asked us to sit with two other couples, one from Mexico City, one set of guys in town for a festival. Amazing dinner and company.
Day 2: Free bkfst at Casa Banana, fruit, bread, coffee. Nice. Spotty service (nobody ever asks if you want more to drink, nobody) but oh, well, no problem. Long walk on beach, claimed a beach bead that was hanging by ropes under a palapa. Walked up to Las Estrellas to share a steak sandwich and guacamole. Very tasty, but very expensive, compared to El Camello. Taxi into town, bought pastries at Mot Mot Bakery to take back to room, found local festival on a back street and our new friends. They took us for a short walk and showed us where there was a pen and a bull and a matador doing his thing. So cool. Only locals all around us. Our friends told us not to eat the meat at the festival, but we wished we'd bought some flan...
Day 3: Free bkfst at Casa Banana (this is because we are staying at NVR). Taxi to ADO bus station in Tulum Pueblo. Bus to Valladolid leaves at 9 am but we are early and there is a second class bus at
8:20 so we buy tickets for that one. Out of 70 or so people on the bus, we are the only tourists, except for a German couple. Two hours later, we are in Valladolid and we look for a colectivo to Ek Balam ruins but no luck so take a taxi instead. Driver does not speak one word of English. Ek Balam is incredible. We climb the castillo and get fabulous photos at the top, then pay and walk to the cenote on the grounds. Half a mile in, wish we hadn't been so cheap and taken a rickshaw instead. Gorgeous cenote, only three or four locals there. Lifejackets, rope swing, changing rooms, lockers. Taxi back to Valladolid and lunch at El Meson del Marques hotel. Grilled pork, guacamole made at the table, sangria. Wonderful, memorable. ADO first class bus back to Tulum took an hour and a half.
Day 4: Free breakfast at Casa Banana, then beach bed again. Addictive. Reserved Mexico Kan tour to Sian Ka'an before trip. Van picks us up about 10 minutes late and we pick up another couple at the beach and one in the Pueblo. Short van ride to Muyil Ruins, then to biosphere for boat ride and canal float, and then sandwiches, brownies and fresh fruit on a boardwalk in the biosphere, then van ride back to hotels. Great experience, and cheaper than a lot of the other tours. Very relaxing afternoon. Walked to OM later that night for mediocre pizza and margharitas.
Day 5: Woke up to rain. Kind of nice. Free breakfast at Casa Banana, then lots of reading in our room with the balcony doors open, listening to waves and rain. Five minute walked to market on beach road for tortilla and beer snack. Taxi to Tulum Ruins. Driver drops us off at quiet entrance. Hardly any crowds due to drizzle. Beautiful ruins, rain stops, taxi back to hotel, Walked up beach and cut across to El Tabano for dinner. Too spicy and too expensive. Just don't see what the big deal is with these fancy beach restaurants. Make a promise to hubby to return to El Camello on our last day.
Day 6: Free breakfast at Casa Banana. Rent bikes at NVR - $10 for 24 hours, and ride to town and Brought our snorkels and masks from home. Snorkel around, watch a group with a guide encouraged to dive under caves a short distance and then come back up. Glad we didn't pay to do that. Hear one of the people say they don't want to do it anymore. Ride bikes to Pueblo. El Camello is closed! Have two chicken dinners at Pollo Bronco for our 25th anniversary for 1/4 the price of El Tabano and the food is better! Rice, salsa, cole slaw, orange fanta. Great service. Feed hungry stray dog some chicken. Bought some chocolate croissants at Mot Mot for plane ride home.
Day 7: USA Transfers is right on time, outside of NVR at 5 am. Uneventful van ride to airport. Same friendly driver. Adios Tulum!
FIRST TIMER TO TULUM TIPS/THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN:
*Map Chick maps are worth every cent. I got the Tulum map, Mayan Riviera and Mayan Adventure maps
* Know what pesos are worth. Consider creating a cheat sheet where you have amounts written down, especially if you do a lot of DIY stuff, like we did. The farther you get from the beach, the less English is spoken. The ADO station agent in Valladolid said, "No Ingles!" If you ask Cuantos Pesos? and they tell you one hundred fifty in Spanish, make sure you know what that is.
*The taxi drivers hate to make change, or won't, so don't hand them a 500 peso bill.
*If you are doing ruins DIY, print out some information from home and bring it with you.
* Be aware that colectivos sound great, but they only take groups, and only if you are all going the same way. Otherwise, you will be hiring a vehicle for two people, and that's called a taxi. Rarely did a colectivo happen to come our way.
*In my opinion, the food at the beach is expensive and not as good as some of the food in town.
*I wish I'd brought a rain jacket.